Signal transduction: In the right place, at the right time
Cells integrate internal and external stimuli through complex signaling pathways in order to adapt to changing environments. In particular, cells must know when to grow and when not to. In the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway downstream of growth factors, Sgk3 is activated by the signaling lipid PI3P, but the precise mechanism of its activation is unknown. In work published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the lab of Thomas Leonard has discovered that Sgk3 is locally activated on membranes by PI3P. In the absence of PI3P, its membrane binding domain maintains Sgk3 in an inactive conformation. Since Sgk3 is upregulated in some cancers, its autoinhibited conformation represents a novel therapeutic target.
Max Perutz PhD Fellowships awarded
Luis Miguel Cerron Alvan and Helena Bragulat Teixidor have been selected as the first Max Perutz PhD Fellows. The program was established earlier this year with the goal to reward the most ambitious and innovative PhD projects at the institute.
Hot off the press: a new role for histone modifications in genomic imprinting
Imprinted genes are expressed from either the paternal or maternal allele. Reporting in Nature Communications, scientists led by Martin Leeb have now discovered 71 previously unrecognized imprinted genes in preimplantation blastocysts. The study found that imprinting created by differential histone marks plays a more prominent role in the preimplantation blastocyst than canonical DNA methylation mechanisms.
ÖAW DOC Fellowships for Max Perutz Labs students
The Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) has awarded four DOC fellowships to Max Perutz Labs PhD students Dana Abdeen, Aleksandra Anisimova, Daria Filipczak, and Helena Bragulat Teixidor. The DOC program offers funding for highly qualified doctoral candidates in all areas of research. The fellowships amount to 38,000 Euros each and will support the young researchers’ work, spanning from meiosis, lamins, inter-organelle communication, and protein quality control.
Meiosis: Mind the gap
Meiosis is a specialized cell division process required to generate gametes, the reproductive cells of an organism. During meiosis, paternal and maternal chromosomes duplicate, pair, and exchange parts of their DNA in a process called meiotic recombination. In order to mediate this exchange of genetic material, cells introduce double strand breaks (DSBs) into their chromosomal DNA. Scientists from the lab of Franz Klein from the Department of Chromosome Biology at the Max Perutz Labs, a joint venture of the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna, have now discovered that cells sometimes liberate DNA fragments at sites of paired, or double, DSBs. Whilst this presents an obvious risk of germline mutations as a consequence of erroneous repair or of integration of fragments from elsewhere at break sites, it may also be a source of evolutionary diversity. The study is published as a research article in Nature.
Two Max Perutz Labs scientists elected as EMBO members
Every year EMBO (European Molecular Biology Organization) selects distinguished scientists who have made outstanding contributions in the field of the life sciences. New members are elected by peers based on individual recommendations by renowned researchers in their respective field. Kristin Tessmar-Raible and Alwin Köhler have joined the EMBO community.
Building muscles from liquids – phase separation in the Z-disc
The lab of Kristina Djinovic-Carugo and their collaborators report the first structure of FATZ-1 in complex with a-actinin, two important proteins found in the Z-disc of muscle fibers. The Z-disc is a supramolecular structure that anchors actin filaments in skeletal muscle. Intriguingly, FATZ-1, which is an intrinsically disordered protein implicated in the biogenesis of the Z-disc, also shows a propensity to form biomolecular condensates. The work raises interesting questions about the role of liquid-liquid phase separation in the formation of these structures. The study is published in Science Advances.
Biology in the holodeck: exploring cellular interactions with virtual reality
Jörg Menche was born in Würzburg and studied physics in Germany and Brazil. In his PhD at the Max-Planck-Institute of Colloids and Interfaces he focused on network theory. After postdoctoral work in the USA, he moved to Vienna in 2015 to start his own group at the CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine. Since 2020, he holds a joint professorship at the Max Perutz Labs and the Faculty of Mathematics of the University of Vienna. In our interview he talks about why he lives and breathes science and why he is excited about the future of virtual reality technology.
Anete Romanauska receives Denise P. Barlow Award
Postdoc Anete Romanauska from the Köhler lab has been awarded the Denise M. Barlow Award for "Best Thesis on Biological Mechanisms". After the Weintraub Award and the Vienna BioCenter PhD Award this marks the third distinction for Anete’s PhD research on lipid metabolism in the nucleus. The prize is named after molecular biologist Denise P. Barlow and recognizes academic talent among the four research institutes she was associated with: The Max Perutz Labs, the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA), the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP), and the Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (CeMM). Its aim is to honor exceptional PhD work with an emphasis on novel biological mechanisms, something Denise P. Barlow was fond of.
A protein bodyguard – private security in the defense against oxidation
Oxidative stress is a biochemical condition in which the levels of oxidant molecules exceed the level of reductants (also known as anti-oxidants) in an organism. High concentrations of oxidants can alter the activity of enzymes and damage lipids, proteins and nucleic acids. Reporting in Molecular Cell, the lab of Javier Martinez reveals a novel and surprising mechanism of how an essential enzyme protects itself from oxidative stress. The tRNA ligase RTCB evolved with another protein whose sole purpose is to protect RTCB from oxidation. This protein, called PYROXD1, is linked to myopathies in humans and, paradoxically, uses a key cellular oxidant, NADP+, to protect its partner.
Keeping oocytes fit with Topoisomerase-3
During germ cell development faulty meiocytes are eliminated via apoptosis, a programmed cell death to ensure that only healthy gametes are produced. The lab of Verena Jantsch has now discovered a previously undescribed role for topoisomerase 3 (TOP-3) in oocyte quality control of the model organism C. elegans. In the absence of TOP-3, cells accumulate aberrant recombination intermediates in the pre-meiotic and meiotic compartments of the gonad that are less capable of triggering apoptosis. DNA repair is directed to less accurate pathways, resulting in a pool of oocytes with low quality. The study is published in the Journal of Cell Biology.
From Bench to Bedside - Molecular Pathogenesis to Precision Medicine
The Medical University of Vienna in cooperation with the University of Vienna has launched a new Master´s Program in Molecular Precision Medicine dedicated to an understanding of human pathogenesis and the treatment of disease at a molecular and mechanistic level. The course brings basic, translational, and clinical scientists together with doctors to educate students in the opportunities, challenges, and future perspectives of precision medicine.